Stephen’s run round the park


    When the order list had been booked the two would go on to the park where an old friend of Stephen’s father, Mike Flynn, would be found seated on a bench, waiting for them. Then would begin Stephen’s run round the park. Mike Flynn would stand at the gate near the railway station, watch in hand, while Stephen ran round the track in the style Mike Flynn favoured, his head high lifted, his knees well lifted and his hands held straight down by his sides. When the morning practice was over the trainer would make his comments and sometimes illustrate them by shuffling along for a yard or so comically in an old pair of blue canvas shoes. A small ring of wonderstruck children and nursemaids would gather to watch him and linger even when he and uncle Charles had sat down again and were talking athletics and politics. Though he had heard his father say that Mike Flynn had put some of the best runners of modern times through his hands Stephen often glanced at his trainer’s flabby stubble-covered face, as it bent over the long stained fingers through which he rolled his cigarette, and with pity at the mild lustreless blue eyes which would look up suddenly from the task and gaze vaguely into the blue distance while the long swollen fingers ceased their rolling and grains and fibres of tobacco fell back into the pouch.

James Joyce. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Page 53)

In an earlier blog I wondered if Joyce ran. The passage above from the opening of Chapter 2 is a strong indication that he did. In his biography James Joyce, Ellmann notes (page 15) that Joyce’s brother Stanislaus recorded the fact that their father John Stanislaus Joyce, ran cross-country whilst at University College Cork.

In his recent biography Gordon Bowker writes of the young James Joyce,

In June 1891 he was removed from Clongowes leaving the bill for his final term at the college unpaid. He also left behind a high opinion of his intellectual capabilities, especially with Father Conmee. The young scholar was now allowed to study at home with the help of his mother.

Gordon Bowker. James Joyce, A Biography (Page 39)

Ellmann writes in James Joyce (page 34) that the Joyce family moved to 23 Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, in early 1892 to the house “Leoville”. Joyce would have been 9 or 10 years old at the time. It seems likely that as he was being schooled at home by his mother and no longer taking part in games at Clongowes, his father arranged for a personal trainer to keep up his physical training in the nearby Blackrock Park.

Carysfort Avenue is one of the locations where Joyce lived that has changed considerably, with a new bypass cutting through the village and exposing the gable end of “Leoville” which you can see in the Google Street View link hereYou can see the changes to the roads on the images from the Ordnance Survey Ireland in the images below. You can access the map directly here. On the map you can see the entrance along the south of the railway line from Blackrock Train Station. Interestingly the Park has changed little and there is an excellent short history here.

The changes to the street layout around “Leoville” are visually unappealing and for this reason I left if off the half marathon route that I developed last summer. Running around Blackrock Park and along the coastline into Dublin is much more appealing.

jj21kMap25_02 jj21kMap25

Oddly Joyce seems to have taken to running in his later years. Bowker writes (pages 353, 564) that Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver, when on holiday in Belgium in 1928, at the age of 46. “Most of all he enjoyed the seafront, and took up running, one day covering six or seven kilometres between Middelkerke and Mariakerke.” Interestingly this stretch also has a railway between the land and the beach as you can see here.

Joyce clearly loved walking on the seafront and returned to the days when he ran directly beside it, in Blackrock Park.


Joyce, J. (2007) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts Criticism. Edited by John Paul Riquelme, Hans Walter Gabler, and Walter Hettche. New York, United States: Norton, W. W. & Company.

Bowker, G. (2012) James Joyce: A Biography. London, United Kingdom: Phoenix.

Click here to see the route details on Runkeeper

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